Picking AL All-Stars is no easy exercise

The Baltimore Sun

This one was pain ful. More than usual.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Ley land, who will fill out the American League All-Star roster this year, probably went through three packs of smokes trying to figure this out.

There are at least five absolutely deserving players in the AL who won't make the official team, which will be an nounced this afternoon. For me, this excruciating exercise came down to which starting pitchers I had to leave off. Ulti mately, the Orioles' Jere my Guthrie and Erik Bed ard, the Los Angeles An gels' Kelvim Escobar and Detroit's Jeremy Bonder man didn't make my cut.

I tried 100 ways to get Guthrie, second in the league in ERA, into the mix, but I couldn't do it - not without cutting an ace from a better team.

So Guthrie, a great guy and great story, is off. But maybe he won't be when Leyland makes his call. Surely, he's better at this than I am.

My team was compiled by making the assump tion that the most recent vote totals will hold and the leaders will be named starters. Then re serves were added to compile 32-man rosters. As per Major League Baseball rules, each team is represented.

Al Squad

FIRST BASE: David Ortiz, Boston. Reserves: Kevin Youkilis, Boston; Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay; Justin Morneau, Minnesota.

Pena, who is surprisingly among the league leaders in homers, is my lone Devil Ray. Youkilis should be the starter, but DH Ortiz was Boston's ballot representative here.

SECOND BASE: Placido Polanco, Detroit. Reserve: Brian Roberts, Orioles.

Roberts, who is having a tremendous year, is the lone Oriole. Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton could be here, too, but injuries cost him several weeks.

THIRD BASE: Alex Rodriguez, New York. Reserve: Mike Lowell, Boston.

As with second base, the fans obviously got the voting right. Lowell has been a key in Boston's first-half run.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter, New York. Reserves: Carlos Guillen, Detroit; Orlando Cabrera, Los Angeles; Michael Young, Texas.

Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta also deserves a nod, but Texas has to have a representative, and Young is as good as any choice.

CATCHER: Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit. Reserves: Jorge Posada, New York; Victor Martinez, Cleveland.

Such a good position right now that Minnesota's Joe Mauer gets left off. Rodriguez is an old standard, but Posada or Martinez deserves the start.

OUTFIELD: Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles; Magglio Ordonez, Detroit; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle. Reserves: Alex Rios, Toronto; Gary Sheffield, Detroit; Torii Hunter, Minnesota; Mark Teahen, Kansas City.

The travesty here is that Cleveland's Grady Sizemore gets cut, but I needed a Royal and a Blue Jay and Teahen and Rios are the most deserving.

STARTING PITCHERS: Dan Haren, Oakland; Josh Beckett, Boston; C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland; Justin Verlander, Detroit; Johan Santana, Minnesota; John Lackey, Los Angeles.

Guthrie aside, this came down to two Angels, Lackey or Escobar. I flipped a coin and it came up Lackey. Guthrie's campaign was hurt by his losing team and the paltry four wins it managed for him. The other guys have at least twice that number.

RELIEVERS: J.J. Putz, Seattle; Bobby Jenks, Chicago; Jonathan Papelbon, Boston; Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles.

Almost dropped Rodriguez here to make room for Guthrie or Escobar. But he accumulates the saves and pitches for the West-leading Angels. Jenks is the only member of the White Sox here.

NL SQUAD

FIRST BASE: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee. Reserves: Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Dmitri Young, Washington; Derrek Lee, Chicago.

Pujols and Young were the only representatives from their teams. Lee was a bubble guy, but he doesn't stop hitting and is great with the mitt.

SECOND BASE: Chase Utley, Philadelphia. Reserve: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati.

Nearly cheated and moved a shortstop over here. But went legitimate, and had a choice between Phillips and Arizona's Orlando Hudson, who has made an uncharacteristically high number of errors this season.

THIRD BASE: David Wright, New York. Reserve: Miguel Cabrera, Florida.

No one else is in the conversation after these two.

SHORTSTOP: Jose Reyes, New York. Reserves: J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee; Hanley Ramirez, Florida; Edgar Renteria, Atlanta.

Could have skipped either Ramirez or Renteria, but they both are deserving.

CATCHER: Russell Martin, Los Angeles. Reserve: Johnny Estrada, Milwaukee.

Estrada gets the nod from a group of players having mediocre seasons.

OUTFIELD: Carlos Beltran, New York; Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati; Alfonso Soriano, Chicago. Reserves: Carlos Lee, Houston; Barry Bonds, San Francisco; Matt Holliday, Colorado; Eric Byrnes, Arizona.

Byrnes and equally hard-nosed Aaron Rowand of Philadelphia battled for my 32nd spot, and, honestly, both should be in. Bonds, Lee and Holliday are lone reps.

STARTING PITCHERS: Brad Penny, Los Angeles; Ian Snell, Pittsburgh; John Smoltz, Atlanta; Jake Peavy, San Diego; Chris Young, San Diego; John Maine, New York; Ben Sheets, Milwaukee.

Went with seven here, so at least one won't get in the game, but all are having great years. Sheets, because of the Brewers' run, gets my pick over Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Houston's Roy Oswalt.

RELIEVERS: Trevor Hoffman, San Diego; Takashi Saito, Los Angeles; Francisco Cordero, Milwaukee; Jose Valverde, Arizona.

Valverde is the bubble guy. It might be best to dump him and add Rowand or Cincinnati's Adam Dunn to the crowded outfield. But I'll let Tony La Russa do that.

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